Plain language is still far away

Funka annually examines how public sector in Sweden tries to ensure that digital information reaches everyone. The 2019 survey shows that, unfortunately, it seems to be a while before public websites have an inclusive approach to content.

Most alarming is that a full 22 percent respond that they "do not work in any particular way" to ensure that the organisation's information reaches out to all people.

It is also worrying that only half of all respondents claim to comply with the Language Council's rules for plain language. It is a figure that has remained the same for several years and is surprising considering that a difficult language excludes most readers.

Some web editors and communication staff are trained in plain language, but no one follows up if they really write understandably. Most have no training in writing so people understad and no follow-up takes place.

More information in alternative formats

A positive result is the continued increase of published videos, images and illustrations on public websites. Since around 25 percent of users struggle with reading text, this is really important.

Difficult content is difficult even if it read out aloud

Even so, the problem remains that most of the respondents say they use Text-To-Speech as a solution for people who struggle with reading. There is a risk that website owners provides these very useful service instead of making their texts better. Assistive technology reading out loud works excellently for many users - but if the content is difficult, it will not be easier because it is read aloud. A total of 11 percent responded that they "do not inform in any particular way" to reach people with impaired reading ability.

The language law is not enforced

Even on the question of how the organizations ensure that they comply with the language law, we see that too many people respond "not in any particular way". This year, the figure was 20 percent.

We work with the issue, but honestly we ensure nothing.

The proportion offering texts in easy-to-read Swedish is increasing again

Last year, 40 percent stated that they publish texts in easy-to-read Swedish. This year, this figure is 48 percent. The intended target groups for texts in easy-to-read are even wider than before, with "users who don’t feel comfortable as readers" as the largest target group. The proportion who indicate migrants as a target group has increased slightly since last year.

Just like all years before, however, it is only "a few" texts on the website that have been processed into easy-to-read Swedish. And just like in previous years, the easy-to-read texts are:

  • not updated
  • without pictures / illustrations
  • not evaluated, so the site owner does not know if the target groups understand them.

The texts in easy-to-read Swedish are not often used. All of those who have stated that they measure the number of visitors on the easy-to-read pages state figures that are lower than 1 percent.

Percent? We talk about per mille ... 

This is especially sad since most respondents say that the most common method of reaching people with a mother tongue other than Swedish is easy-to-read.

All in all, we see that, unfortunately, nothing significantly has happened during the past year. And in several of the free text comments, we learn that the work to make the content on the web understandable is not prioritized. Are the resources put on the technology instead? When should the trend turn? Who's gonna make it happen?

Survey facts:

Funka performs this study every years since 2006

The survey was open February 8 - March 1, 2019

The respondents came from the following organizations:
Municipalities 41 percent
Government agencies 34 percent
State/municipal owned company 8 percent

17 percent came from other organizations such as county councils, universities, cultural institutions, libraries and study associations.

Karin Forsell lectures on clear language for everyone on the Accessibility Days 9-10 April.


Maria Ström

Title: Team leader for UX, Design & Analysis (Maria Ström)

+46 76 880 07 13 (Maria Ström)